‘Will a journalist correct my grammar in a quote?’

When I do my media training sessions a common question is about how the journalist will quote you.

Photo by CoWomen on Unsplash

There is a fear that what you say will appear verbatim regardless of repetition, verbal ticks such as using ‘like’ and slips in grammar.

What you have to remember is that very few of us speak with the sort of grammatical precision you’d see printed.

Live news presenters are perhaps the most polished but they are highly experienced and they still don’t always speak perfectly.

We all repeat ourselves, stutter and stumble over our words occasionally. We speak in incomplete sentences or miss words, say ‘um’.

It’s all normal and not something to worry about when you speak to a journalist.

Want you to be coherent

Yes, they want to get a good quote but they want it to be coherent and easily understood. They want it to be correct English and fit the tone of the rest of their writing.

Which means they will tidy up any grammatical slips, edit out repeated words and the ‘ums’ if necessary.

They won’t change what you said, your specific word choice but they will correct obvious mistakes.

And it is the same for audio interviews too.

Audio can be edited too

Pre-recorded audio interviews for radio and podcasts can be edited.

You can’t correct any grammatical mistakes but you can edit out ‘ums’ and other verbal ticks.

Most will want to make their interviewees sound as good as possible.

I interviewed someone for a podcast once who had a really distinctive way of saying ‘um’ it sounded more like ‘aim’.

It was easy to spot for the edit because the sound levels spiked every time they said it. I was able to visually pick it so I could zoom in and remove them all so my interviewee sounded slick.

Still sounding human

Some editors choose not to over edit as people can start sounding robotic – the odd hesitation or ‘um’ keeps people sounding human.

Of course, some podcasters post just as recorded so you get the conversation as it is but that will include their own mistakes too.

Got a question about media interviews? Pop it in the comments.

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